Learn more about emotions. Know the responses that affect emotions and the three dimensions of conscious emotional experience.
There are a great many words in every language to describe what we generally designate as emotion. We have all experienced fear, anger, grief, guilt, joy, love, and hate, and we have observed these emotions in others. But what exactly is meant by the term “emotion”?
What is emotion?
The word “emotion” is derived from the Latin word emovere, which means to stir up, agitate, or excite. There is no sharp distinction between emotion and motivation. Both involve being “stirred-up” or agitated, and both may arouse, sustain, and direct activity in the organism.
Emotions may be roughly distinguished from the physiological drives, however, in that these drives arise because of the certain tissue needs, while emotions do not. Further, emotions often depend upon the organism’s awareness of the significance of a situation and thus involve the cognitive processes of perception and thinking. And finally, the arousal and satisfaction of the physiological drives may come to follow relatively automatic, habitual behavior patterns, while emotion usually occurs in situations where there is no ready-made habitual response to deal with the situation.
2 Kinds of Responses that Often Reflect Emotion
The first of these is an external or overt response made to the environment. This may take the form of changes in facial expression, such as smiling, scowling, laughing, and crying. Or it may involve the manifestation of overt aggression, such as striking an adversary, kicking a chair, and cursing.
The second type of response accompanying emotion is internal or physiological. When emotion is intense, widespread changes occur within the body. The heart beats more rapidly, blood sugar is released from the liver, the pupils of the eyes dilate, and many other changes occur. A vast amount of research has been carried out on the physiological aspects of emotion, and we consider some of this research in detail later in this chapter.
Three Dimensions of Conscious Emotional Experience
There are at least three dimensions of conscious emotional experience that are helpful in understanding the nature of emotion. These are tension-relaxation, pleasantness-unpleasantness, and attention-rejection.
Emotions range in intensity from mild states, such as slight variations in mood, to the intense passions that disrupt and disorganize behavior. We may be slightly angry or miffed, or we may become so intensely angry that we lose control of our behavior. Thus, we may say that emotions vary, greatly in the degree of tension or relaxation involved.
Emotions also vary along a dimension of pleasantness-unpleasantness. This has been referred to as “hedonic tone,” and it is simply the feeling tone associated with the emotion. We usually experience emotions such as joy, pride, contentment, and love, as being pleasant, while grief, shame, fear, remorse, and guilt are relatively unpleasant.
Finally, attention-rejection is a dimension wherein emotions range from those which involve from turning away to those which involve drawing one’s attention to something. As in the case of the other dimensions just discussed, this dimension is reflected in facial expressions associated with the emotion. Any facial expression of emotion can be placed on this, depending on how it is judged according to the three dimensions.
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